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Archive for the ‘Erotic Fiction’ Category

It Was Just A Dream

I have the most interesting dreams at times. I don’t always remember them, or if I do wake up and remember I often forget them by the end of the day. The ones I remember? They are the ones that evoke feelings, strong feelings. Over the years there have been many and they range from drowning to orgasming. I’ll take more orgasming ones please.

This week I had a dream about a co-worker of mine, we’ll call him Mr Hart (it’s a sunglasses thing). He’s quite the character, and always in a fun way to me but some find him rude or abrasive. The receptionist commented today that he needs to stop touching/adjusting himself so much in front of people. To be honest, I’ve never noticed this. I notice his shoes and the way he walks. I notice his clothes and when he wears a shirt that doesn’t have stripes. I notice when he gets a haircut and the two pairs of glasses that are always on his head. I’ve never notices the crotch adjustments. Now I’m likely not to notice anything but.

Mr Hart is on the list of men I work with that I would have sex with if the right opportunity presented itself. I work for a very large company with mostly male employees, but my list reflects that of a small company or one with a predominately female staff. Mr Hart is at the top of a list that consists of him, Phone Dude, a VP, The Brit out west, and one of our drivers. Five people. Pretty sad considering it’s a male dominated business with more that three thousand employees. I don’t know if my list is small because the men aren’t that appealing or because I am too picky.

But enough about the real life side of it, about this dream…

Mr Hart and I were in the training room at the office, naked and snuggled up under some blankets. We weren’t having sex though, we weren’t even talking about it. We were just snuggling under the blankets and acting rather like two teenagers who want to have sex but are too shy to say anything about it. Maybe it was just a sense of naivety, but maybe we were actually being shy.

He was laying on his back with his left arm around me. I at his side with my head resting on his ribs and my hand on his chest. I would gently rub my hand over his chest as we lay there. We’d make small talk, knowing what was on the others mind but being coy about it, enjoying the closeness, the intimacy. There was nobody there but us, although had we been in the middle of Grand Central I suspect it would have still felt as though we were the only two people in the world.

We lay there, chatting about nothing, being as close as I had ever been with anyone else, sharing an intimacy I couldn’t even begin to describe. It wasn’t sexual, yet it was completely sexual. There were no thoughts of fucking or playing. There was no tell-tale musky scent. No bumping or grinding or heavy breathing.

There was one thing, anticipation. Anticipation of a first kiss. It was heavy in the air, the big elephant in the room. We danced around it, teased each other with it. We would lean in, nearly touch lips, then move away. What were we doing? What would happen if we gave in to our desires? What came after the kiss? Forget the fact that somehow we were naked, we hadn’t even kissed!

I woke up still feeling that intimacy and thrill of anticipation. I wanted to go back to being wrapped up in his arms. My lips were soft and swollen, ready for that kiss.

I would see Mr Hart several times at the office later that day. We didn’t speak as we didn’t have any work with each other that day. But there seemed to be looks, knowing looks like he could read my mind and see the thoughts I had in there of him and I. All day it felt like he was continuing the tease from my dream.

The oddest thing was that at some point I genuinely thought the dream was real, that it had happened and we had shared that evening together. I was rapping my brain trying to remember what had happened after the snuggling. What did we do? How did I get home? Why couldn’t I remember what I did after? Then I realized it was all just a dream. There was nothing more to remember.

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Varcorak awoke in the deep of night. Dull, hot pain throbbed through his belly. His scarred stomach always ached when the swamp spoke to him in the tongue of storms, warning him of liars, thieves, and blades in the dark. Varcorak opened his eyes to bronze slits. Ailsa skulked in the shadows nearby, dressed and picking through his belongings in silence. The swamp never lied. Disappointment, cold and bitter, tugged at his hardened heart. He was not surprised she was robbing him, but expectation made betrayal no less painful.

For a time, Varcorak feigned sleep just as he’d feigned his trust. The girl put so much effort into earning his trust all he had to do was act as though she’d succeeded. But Varcorak knew why she here. Thieves always thought they were one step ahead until they were drowning in his swamp.

Part of Varcorak hoped she’d stay. But he’d locked that part of himself away long ago. He could not let it endanger him again. Survival was more important than companionship.

Varcorak watched Ailsa fill her pack with proof of her thievery. She seemed to have an eye for value and chose items she could easily carry. That was smarter than some thieves. She’d also put blankets over some of the light stones. To a dragon’s eyes, darkness only painted the world in shades of blue-black. There was no shadow that would hide her from him.

Varcorak tensed when Ailsa paused beneath the portraits of his daughter. Ailsa touched Nykarys’ scales, her egg shell, and then she moved away. At least the girl expressed a proper reverence for his family. He’d hate to have to tear her apart for stealing something of his daughter’s.

Varcorak pinned his ears back when Ailsa moved to a crate covered in the purple and gold cloaks of long dead dragon slayers. The crate was filled with more wood-framed portraits that Varcorak kept hidden for a reason. Ailsa pulled free a depiction of a human woman. She stared at it, then at the paintings adorning his walls.

“Yes, that is the girl from the swamp.” Varcorak lifted his head.

Ailsa spun around, mouth agape. The startled terror that shone in her blue-green eyes was magnificent. She dropped the portrait atop the discarded cloaks, stumbling. Her mouth worked like a gasping fish dragged from the swamp. She snatched up her pack.

Varcorak eased up to his paws, yawning. “Don’t I even get a goodbye?”

Ailsa turned and ran.

That was rude. Very well, then. No more games. Varcorak coiled his strength and sprang. He crossed half the room in one leap, and the rest of it in a second. The dragon’s claws scratched the stone as he skidded to a stop before the exit. Varcorak whirled on Ailsa. He snapped his tail, its webbed spikes went rigid like finned blades. He flared his spines and roared.

The sound was all fury and threat, echoing off the stone walls. Ailsa dropped her pack, clapped hands over her ears. Varcorak prowled towards her, every motion coiled strength and menace. He struck Ailsa’s pack with his paw. It tumbled across the floor, spilling stolen treasures in a broken line.

“You think I didn’t know, Girl?” Varcorak hissed as she scrambled away. “I am not so easily fooled by a soft touch, a kind word, and pastries! You think you have the look of a mercenary? Where are your scars, where’s the dead fury in your eyes? You have the look of a filthy little thief who’s wriggled her way out of every danger she’s ever stumbled into.” Varcorak’s voice grew lower with every word till each syllable was little more than a rumbling growl. “Well, Girl. Wriggle your way out of this.”

Ailsa snatched up a golden goblet as she dashed away. She hurled it at Varcorak. He batted it aside, grinning. When Ailsa hurled an entire wooden crate at him, Varcorak knocked it out of the air just as easily. The wood shattered, goblets and jeweled vessels scattered across the floor. He snarled at her, shaking his aching paw. He wasn’t about to let Ailsa make a mess of his home.

Varcorak took a few measured steps, gauging Ailsa’s direction. Then he pounced on her, bearing her down against the stone floor. Ailsa coughed and wheezed as the dragon rolled her onto her back.

“Stop being so dramatic.” The dragon pressed a paw to her chest. “You haven’t even felt my weight.” Varcorak snarled in her face, his spines raised. “If I wanted–”

Ailsa suddenly had a dagger pressed to the dragon’s throat, behind his jaw. Clever girl. “Let me up, Dragon.” Ailsa’s stormy blue-green eyes were wild, flashing fear and anger. “Or I’ll cut your throat.”

“Do it then.” Varcorak unsheathed his claws against her chest. “You use your little blade, I’ll use my claws, and we’ll see who dies first.”

Ailsa held her breath, the blade trembled against the dragon’s neck. “Just…let me go. Neither of us has to die. Let’s…talk about this.”

“Talk?” Varcorak splayed his ears, hissing. “I think we’re past that now.”

Ailsa panted, her body heaving beneath his paw. She felt fragile. Too fragile. “Let me up, or I’ll cut your throat.”

“So you said.” The dragon flicked his spines back against his head. “Go on then.” Varcorak hissed in her face, withdrawing his claws. “Kill me. Open my throat, and watch me die. I won’t retaliate, but I can’t promise the same of the swamp. Hurry, Ailsa, or I’ll retract the offer.”

Hot pain stung Varcorak’s throat as Ailsa pushed the blade into his pebbly-scaled flesh. Wet heat ran down his neck. Ailsa’s hand trembled, and Varcorak sneered at her, flaring his spines again. “Not so easy, is it.”

Ailsa bared her teeth in a grimace of fear and effort as she pressed the blade harder. Varcorak grit his teeth against the pain. Ailsa shook beneath him and red blood ran down her arm. “Just let me go, Var. Don’t make me kill you. Please!”

“If you meant to kill me, Ailsa, you’d have already tried and discovered your blade insufficient.” Varcorak jerked his head away from the blade then swatted it from Ailsa’s grasp. Ailsa screamed in surprised pain, cradling her hand. Varcorak wiped blood from his throat, then glanced at the knife. “Sharp, but too small.”

Ailsa tried to crawl away, and Varcorak grabbed her. The dragon reared to his hind legs, and tossed Ailsa through the air. She screamed and landed with a thump on Varcorak’s blankets and pillows. Varcorak was back atop her in an instant. The dragon stood over her, preparing himself for whatever she might try next.

“Anymore tricks, Thief?”

Ailsa slammed her booted foot between the dragon’s hind legs. Varcorak only grunted. He’d already tucked his tail to protect himself. Ailsa kicked him a few more times, and Varcorak just grinned at her.

“I’m not stupid, Thief.” Varcorak hissed at her. “I know how to protect those. Anything else you’d like to try?”

Ailsa panted and coughed. She struggled for breath as her eyes darted around the room. She fought against Varcorak’s grasp, her nails scratched at his scales.

“Stop acting like a cornered rat, Ailsa. It does not become you.” The dragon swiveled his ears back in distaste. “Take a breath. Face me with some pride.”

Ailsa stopped struggling. Blood dribbling from Varcorak’s throat speckled her olive skin with crimson. Ailsa glared at the dragon, fury and defiance replacing the fear in her eyes. She wiped away the blood and smeared it across Varcorak’s foreleg.

Varcorak smiled, rumbling his approval. “Yes, that’s more like it.”

“What now, King Ugly?”

Varcorak arched his neck. “King Ugly? Not bad, but you’re not as clever as you think. Tell me, Ailsa.” Varcorak snorted, blowing her black hair around. “Do jailors often discuss their town’s problems with their prisoners?”

“What?” Ailsa blinked, staring up at him. Varcorak grinned as gears struggled to turn behind her blue-green eyes.

“You thought this was all your idea, Ailsa, but it wasn’t. It was mine.” Varcorak swept his green-mottled wings out in a grand gesture. “When I heard my town arrested a wandering thief, I decided to play a little game.”

“Wh…what?” Ailsa stammered. Her bafflement was delightful. “What game?”

You were the game, Ailsa.” Varcorak licked her cheek, whispering into her ear. “I instructed the guards to talk about my demands around you. See if you’d be ambitious enough to wriggle your way out of that cell and into my lair. And you were.”

Ailsa wiped more dragon blood from her face. “So you knew. All along.”

“That you were a thief who planned to rob me?” The dragon flicked his wings, dragging their tips across his bedding. “Or about the red root?”

Ailsa sucked in a breath. “How…?”

“My town is loyal.” The dragon lashed his tail. The spines caught a pillow and sent it tumbling through the air. “They sent message about the tarts before you even arrived.”

“But you ate them!”

“And they were delicious.” Varcorak drummed fingers against her shoulder, lifting a few spines. “I had a part to play. Besides, red root grows in my swamp, Ailsa, I know it well. It only makes dragons drowsy.”

“Goddamn it!” Ailsa balled up her fists, shaking.

“Infuriating, isn’t it.” Varcorak curled his tail, reveling in his victory. “All this time spent playing me. Must have thought yourself so clever. I even gave you a chance to come clean about it. Instead, you betrayed the trust you thought you’d built.”

“You wicked bastard!” Ailsa punched his forelegs.

“Wicked?” The dragon let her punch his scaled limbs all she wanted. It scarcely hurt. He growled low in his throat, baring his fangs. “So says the one who pleasured a dragon just to get to his treasure.”

“You manipulative son of a bitch!” Ailsa pounded her fists against his limbs, his chest.

“Manipulative?” Varcorak’s growl rose. “You were the one who feigned comfort when I needed it most! Who sat with me as my companion, offering me drugged treats.”

“You told me that bullshit story!” Ailsa lashed out again, flailing in sudden fury, her face red. “I felt sorry for you! I thought you were crying, I thought you were lonely! Now you tell me it’s just part of some bullshit game? I almost stayed here with you!”

“And I hoped you would!” Varcorak snapped at her. “The story was real, Ailsa, that wasn’t part of the game. That just…” The dragon glanced away, gnashing his teeth. Anger made his fire glands churn. Bitter fire bile coated his tongue and cold claws sunk into his heart. “Last night I bared something real to you. I hoped your comfort in return was just as true! I clung to the futile hope that you might change your mind and stay, even as I knew you would not.”

“That…was real?” Ailsa went still, staring up at him. “…I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t care.” Varcorak snapped his jaws. He took a deep breath, and pulled out the talon she’d left deep inside him. “What is done is done. This is where we are. The game is over, and what happened no longer matters. Now you’re just…” Varcorak growled, low and bitter. “A thief.”

The color drained from Ailsa’s face. Something sad flickered in her eyes, and she worked her lips in wordless silence. Varcorak pushed his paw over her mouth to keep her that way. Fear once more replaced sorrow in her eyes. He lifted a digit to clear her nose, breath washed over his scales in fearful snorts.

“Bite me, and I’ll crush your jaw. Clear?”

Ailsa nodded once.

“Good.” Varcorak lowered his head, his bronze eyes boring into Ailsa’s blue-green ones. “I don’t want to hear your apology. In fact, I don’t want to hear you say another word. You will lie there and listen. Is that also clear?”

When Ailsa nodded, Varcorak removed his paw. Ailsa took a deep breath, staring at the dragon. She rubbed her jaw. Varcorak pinned his ears back. “I never planned to kill you, Ailsa. Game or not, I enjoyed our time together.” The dragon glanced away. “Despite your manipulation, I took solace in your comfort. Perhaps that speaks ill of me.” He gazed at his daughter’s portraits. “And you told me to visit my daughter. I…did not expect that.” Varcorak sighed and shook his head. “So I have a deal to offer you. Nod if you wish to hear it.”

Ailsa nodded.

“The man you assaulted in town. You tracked him here to reclaim something he took. Correct?”

Shock slackened Ailsa’s face before she grimaced and glanced away. “My father’s knife.”

“Then the deal is thus. You may choose between sentiment or wealth. Your father’s knife, or one piece of my treasure. Not both. Then you may leave my lands unharmed. If you return to my lands, I will kill you, Thief.” Varcorak tapped an unsheathed claw against her throat. “Fair?”

Once Ailsa nodded, Varcorak settled on his haunches to let her up. She scrambled away from him and snatched up her pack. He curled his tail around his paws, watching her back away till she stumbled over spilled treasure. She gazed down at a jewel-crusted goblet and wrung a leather strap between her hands.

“If the choice is too difficult, I can offer you the Devil’s deal, instead.” Varcorak flared his spines, cocking his head. “Isn’t that what you called me? The Devil?” He rustled his wings, smirking. “Curious? You may speak.”

Ailsa squeezed her empty pack. She grit her teeth. “Tell me.”

Varcorak grinned at her, unfurling his wings. “You may fill your pack with all the treasure you can carry. Escape my swamp, and the treasure is yours, and so is your father’s knife.” The dragon lifted a paw, unsheathing a single claw. “The catch, Ailsa, is that come morning I will hunt you through my swamp like prey.”

Ailsa sucked in a breath, her body rigid.

“I’ll give you plenty of time.” Varcorak unsheathed the rest of his claws, ticking them off. “I’ll sleep in late, I’ll hunt breakfast, I’ll bathe…and then I’ll come find you. And I will find you, Ailsa. The swamp will make sure of it. When I catch you…” Varcorak sheathed his claws, set his paw back down. “I don’t know what I’ll do. Perhaps I’ll paddle you right there in my swamp.” Varcorak grinned when Ailsa’s jaw dropped. “Perhaps I’ll hoist my tail and let you paddle me.” A snarl replaced the dragon’s grin, his spines flared. “Or maybe I’ll just drown you in my swamp and leave you to rot.”

Ailsa’s face slackened, her eyes went wide. She stumbled back from the dragon.

Varcorak drummed claws tips against the floor, flicking his tail. “Wealth, sentiment, or the Devil. Decide.”

Ailsa crouched down, picking through some of the spilled treasure. A shame Ailsa only seemed to want the one piece. She’d been so much more entertaining than the usual fawning wenches they sent his way. She reminded him of the first human woman he knew, the one he found in the swamp. Why, she was–

“Fuck it.” Ailsa crammed treasure after treasure into her bag.

“The Devil’s deal it is.” Varcorak flicked his tail, his spines clattering. A smile spread over his muzzle. “A pleasant surprise. Good girl, Ailsa.”

“Call me that again, and I’m gonna use that paddle on your balls.” Ailsa glared at him, buckling her treasure-filled pack shut.

“I’ll be sure to bring it, then.” Varcorak’s grin widened, his ears perked. He rustled his wings. Ooh, this was already exciting. How was he going to sleep? When Ailsa shouldered her pack and went to the tapestry, Varcorak bowed his head to her. “Good luck, Ailsa. See you in the morning.”

Ailsa was gone without another word.

Once Varcorak was alone, he cleaned up the mess Ailsa left. As he put the treasures back where they belonged, his gaze wandered the painted faces of old lovers, of family. Many of them were gone now. He picked up the painting of the human woman. He stared at it, shivering. They were so much alike. He put it back with the other portraits he could not bear to hang.

Varcorak found himself standing below the paintings of his daughter. He brushed his pads across his favorite image of her. “Maybe Ailsa’s right about visiting you. I think you’d like her.”

Varcorak stared at his daughter’s face. He could almost hear her lovely voice teasing him for talking to himself. Chiding him over the way he conducted his life.

“Maybe if I spare her, I’ll take her to meet you.” He sighed, leaning his horned head against the wall. He closed his eyes. “I miss you, Ny.”

When Varcorak opened his eyes again, the paintings stared down at him. He snorted. “Don’t look at me like that. She brought this on herself.” Varcorak glanced away, pinning his spines back.

“That’s not fair, it’s different from your mother.” Teeth of ice bit into his heart. “Someone had to protect them. But Ailsa chose this path.”

He turned his head to gaze into his daughter’s eyes again. “You want me to spare her, don’t you.”

Varcorak flopped onto his haunches, crossing his forelegs over his plated chest. His neck frills tingled. “Oh no, you can’t turn this around…well, yes. Maybe she is right about that.” Varcorak sighed, flicking his tail. “Sometimes the roads we walk do choose us. The swamp certainly chose me. Some days I wish it hadn’t.”

He hissed under his breath, then chuckled. “We both know the swamp will never let her leave. So tell you what. I’ll let the swamp decide her fate. But if it lets Ailsa live, I’m going to let her steal your treasure. See how you like it.”

Varcorak laughed in bittersweet amusement. He stretched his neck, nuzzled the center image of his daughter, and then turned away. He tidied up his pillows and blankets, smiling. It had been ages since he got to hunt someone. Varcorak stretched out upon his bedding, and lay his head down.

The dragon smiled.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tale of  Ailsa and Varcorak during Dragon Week. This week’s episodes were courtesy of D. Wilder and his novella The Devil’s Deal. You can catch up on all the episodes and find contact information for D. Wilder here.

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Ailsa settled upon a thick blue blanket with silvery patches. Still damp from the bath, she hadn’t bothered to dress. She opened up her pack, glancing at the dragon. Varcorak sat on his haunches nearby, his finned tail curled around his paws. Pale blue light made the gray lines and blotches of old scars stand out against his belly.

“You’ve a lot of scars.” Ailsa retrieved a couple brambleberry tarts and set them on the blanket. Each was twice the size of her first and wrapped in a golden, sugar-dusted crust.

“A lot of people try to kill me.” Varcorak peered at his scars. “Just as they’ve slain so many other dragons. Humans believe us evil. Even you called me the devil.”

Ailsa glanced at the tarts, sighing. “I doubt my opinion matters to you. For what it’s worth, your town doesn’t seem to think you’re evil.”

“And you wonder why I stay.” Varcarok stretched a wing, staring at it as though the green markings told a story across its black expanse. “Peace is as viable a means of survival as bloodshed.”

“So it is.” Ailsa picked up a pastry and waved it at the dragon’s scars. “Those attempts ever come close?”

“This one.” Varcorak traced a claw tip along a thick, gray scar marring his belly. “This one terrified me. I thought it was my end.”

“What happened?” Ailsa clutched the tart in both hands.

“Are you going to give me that tart or just tease me with it?” Varcorak licked his muzzle, rumbling a hungry purr.

Ailsa laughed. “I was going to eat it, but if you’re going to beg for scraps like a dog, here.” Ailsa passed the dragon the treat, then pushed a few more towards him. “They said brambleberry was your favorite.”

Varcorak popped the pastry into his muzzle, spines trembling in delight. “Oh, yes. I love these.”

“Good. There’s cakes, too.” Ailsa dug a cake from the pack and took a bite. The honey icing was melted, but it was still soft and sweet. “Maybe I’ll trade you for one of your tarts.”

“A fair trade.” Varcorak eased down onto his belly, licking sugar from his paw. He cocked his head and gave Ailsa an odd look. “Do you really want to know about my scar?”

“I do.” She may as well keep the dragon busy while the red root worked into his system.

The dragon reached for another tart. “Then I shall require your companionship.”

“Companionship?” Ailsa smirked, drumming her fingers against the leather pack. She grinned as Varcorak ate a second pastry. That’s right, King Ugly, eat them all. “Are you asking to cuddle?”

“Yes.” Varcorak snorted. He rolled to his side and hoisted a foreleg in invitation. “And bring the tarts.”

Ailsa carried her pack across dragon’s bedding and settled against his chest plates. When Varcorak wrapped his foreleg around her middle, Ailsa fought the instinct to twist away before she was trapped. She relaxed after a moment, telling herself the dragon just wanted to cuddle. Varcorak’s warmth helped soothe her.

Ailsa stroked the black scutes of the dragon’s foreleg, removing tarts from her pack with her free hand. She pushed them towards the dragon, along with a honey cake. Ailsa kept one tart for herself, marked by an extra incision in the crust. She picked up her tart, and leaned back against the dragon.

Ailsa took a bite of her pastry. The crust was flaky while the red-black filling was sweet and with a tart edge. It was studded with whole berries. No wonder he loved them. As Ailsa ate, she stroked Varcorak’s stomach. Her fingers brushed smooth scar tissue, and she glanced at the fat gray blotch.

“I was young.” The dragon’s spines drooped, his ears pinned back. “Too young to be hunted.”

Ailsa scowled. “You were being hunted?”

Varcorak glanced away, growling. “Dragons are always being hunted.”

Sympathy knifed through Ailsa’s armor. She knew what that was like to be hunted, to wander alone. How difficult life was when you never felt safe. Ailsa swallowed, and stared at a mirrored lantern just to keep her eyes off the tarts.

“It’s alright, Varcorak.” Ailsa rubbed his foreleg scutes. “No one hunts you now.”

Varcorak shifted, and Ailsa glanced up at him. She immediately wished she hadn’t. The smile the dragon gave her nearly broke Ailsa’s heart. There was honesty in that flicker of a smile that spoke of genuine comfort and consolation in her presence. Old bastard really was lonely. That wouldn’t keep Ailsa from stealing his treasure, but it might keep her up at night.

Ailsa patted the dragon’s hand. “Let me get us some wine.” Varcorak moved his leg. Ailsa rose, poured them each some wine and returned to the dragon. “Here. This will help.”

Varcorak accepted the wine with another smile that made Ailsa cringe inside. “Thank you.”

Ailsa settled back down against the dragon’s chest. This time when he enclosed her in his foreleg, she didn’t feel trapped, just guilty. “You don’t have to talk about it, Var.”

“I don’t mind, Ailsa.” The dragon selected a tart and gazed at it like some unsolvable puzzle. The sugar crystals glittered in the blue light.

Ailsa took a drink, then set her goblet down and splayed her fingers over the back of Varcorak’s free hand. Maybe it would do the dragon good to bare a little of his black heart.

“I was young.” Varcorak’s voice drifted, aimless upon a dark ocean of memory. “Not ready to live alone, but life had not given me a choice.” The dragon swallowed, pinning his spines. “Too young to be so afraid.”

Ailsa stroked the dragon’s foreleg, furrowing her brow. “Why would they hunt something so young?”

Varcorak bared a few fangs, gave her a dark look. “Easier to slay a monster before he’s fully grown.”

Ailsa winced and picked up her goblet. She’d drink the whole bottle if she didn’t need to stay sober. “That’s cold.”

“Slaying dragons was their only goal.” Varcorak turned his gaze away, his wings shivering. “They tracked me all summer. Several times they ambushed me, drew my blood, but never could they end me. The longer it went on, the more terrified I became. In desperation, I set my own ambush. Slew a few of them, drove the rest away. I offered pieces of their dead to the swamp in hopes of earning its protection and intimidating the others into retreat.”

Ailsa sipped her wine, rubbing the back of the dragon’s hand. “Didn’t work?”

“No.” Varcorak stared at his reflection in his wine, spines rising. “A few nights later, I cowered in my tiny cave while a storm raged outside. Shattering thunder startled me and I leapt to my paws. In the next flash I saw them slinking into my home, intent on murdering me in my slumber. The storm they’d used for cover saved my life.” Varcorak’s voice grew hoarse, and he took a drink of wine before continuing. “I tore one of them apart, burned another alive. I sound evil saying that, but I just wanted to live.”

Ailsa tightened her grip on her goblet.

The dragon turned his head, staring at his scarred belly. “I managed to kill them all, but not before one of them pierced me with a barbed lance made to kill dragons. He wrenched it from me, and the barbs…tore me. Inside.”

“Oh, God.” Ailsa shuddered, biting her knuckle.

Varcorak grimaced, flattening his ears. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Sometimes, when it storms, it still hurts.”

Ailsa traced a finger around the outline of the fat gray scar. “You’re lucky you survived.”

“I did not think I would.” Varcorak’s voice grew distant, his bronze gaze unfocused. “I had never seen so much blood. I tried to stop it, but it poured across my paws in a red tide. I twisted in pain and screamed till my throat tore.” The dragon hung his head, his ears drooping. His wings shook. He balled a paw into a fist. “Then I cried, Ailsa.” Varcorak’s voice cracked, growing hoarser with every word until it broke entirely. “I cried. I did not want to die. Not like that, not bleeding out, forgotten in some damp cave. I was so afraid, so utterly alone.”

“I’m so sorry.” Ailsa set her goblet down to squeeze the dragon’s paw between her hands.

“I was so afraid, Ailsa. Afraid I would die without ever mattering to anyone, with no one to remember me.” Varcorak took a shuddering breath, and turned his head away from Ailsa. His spines sagged around his head. “I…I need a moment.”

Ailsa furrowed her brows as the scaly bastard tried to hide his tears. Hell, she hadn’t even known dragons could cry. Varcorak wiped his eyes with a paw, choked back a gravelly sob, then another. His wings shook, a whimper escaped him. Ailsa swallowed, trying to strangle her sympathy before it got started. Damn dragon wasn’t supposed to be able to make her heart ache.

Aw, hell. Least she could do was comfort the beast before she robbed him. But only because she’d brought it up. Not because she felt sorry for him. So close to dying alone in his youth. Lonely and terrified. Damn it, Ailsa, cut it out! Ailsa’s throat clenched as she rose. Before she could stop herself, she wrapped her arms around the dragon’s neck.

“It’s alright, Var.” Ailsa pressed herself to him, stroking his neck. He’d better appreciate this. “You’re safe, now. You’re not alone anymore.”

Varcorak heaved a sigh, his brassy voice a battered, rusted horn. “No, I am not. I have you, Ailsa.”

Wasn’t that just a knife in the belly. “And your daughter, Var. And your town.” Ailsa rubbed his scales, blinking back a few tears of her own. “Right?”

“Yes, Ailsa.” Varcorak turned his head to gaze down at her, his bronze eyes wet and bloodshot. His pebbly scales crinkled when he smiled. He lowered his head, nuzzling her cheek. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Var.” Ailsa hugged his head, and then eased back down to sit against his body. “You gonna be okay?”

“I’m fine.” Varcorak slipped his foreleg around Ailsa’s middle. “That was a long time ago. I try to forget how frightened I felt that night. How alone.”

Ailsa grimaced. The comforting warmth of Varcorak’s foreleg around her made for a blanket of guilt. “How did you survive?”

“The swamp.” Varcorak lapped up the last of his wine as he collected himself. He stared into the empty bowl. “Starting with the storm it sent to warn me.” Varcorak gazed at his windows. “As it always does.”

Distant lightning sent ice down Ailsa’s spine. Any moment now the storm would strike her dead. She hoped the dragon could not feel her goose bumps through his scales.

Varcorak pushed his bowl away. “I drifted on agony and fever dream, heard my father’s voice. He’d taught me fresh brambleberries quell bleeding, fight fevers. I woke and crawled from my cave, and there they were. Piles of them washed up around my home after the storm.”

Ailsa leaned her head back. “Lucky for you.”

“Not luck.” Varcorak’s voice sharpened. “The swamp. When I was dying, it brought me medicine. When I could not hunt, it sent me food. When I could not protect myself, it made a friend of my enemy.” The dragon gestured at the portrait of the gray gryphon with gray mottling. “The swamp provides, Ailsa.”

“It provided a gryphon?” Ailsa blinked, wondering if the red root and wine were influencing his story.

“He came to steal my kill.” Varcorak curled his paw and lay his head down upon it. “Still young, like me. Stalking a half-drowned flock of mud hens washed to my cave. I was too weak to fight him. He could have claimed my life and my land. Instead, he took half the birds, and left. The next day, he returned with a fresh kill and gave me half. Of all the gryphons…” Varcorak yawned, and closed his eyes.

Ailsa nudged the dragon when he did not continue. “Of all the gryphons…what?”

“We were threats to each other. Gryphons and dragons.” Varcorak opened his eyes to bronze slits. “So the swamp sent me the only gryphon who could help me make peace between our species.” He closed his eyes again.

“That’s it? You can’t end the story there! How long did it take to heal, what happened with the gryphons?”

Varcorak lifted his head, peering at Ailsa with bleary, unfocused eyes. “Sorry, Ailsa. I’m suddenly…quite drowsy. I’ll continue tomorrow if you wish.”

Damn. She’d stepped right in her own snare. “I’d like that, Var.”

“Good. Thank you for coming, Ailsa.” The smile the dragon gave her left her choking on her own guilty heart. “It has been…too long since I’ve known companionship.”

Ailsa forced a smile while she still had the strength. Her lies were getting harder to speak. “Even a dragon needs a friend now and then, right?”

“Yes.” The dragon laid his head against his paw again. “He does. Will you lay with me while I sleep? Sometimes that memory haunts my dreams.”

“Of course.” Ailsa fetched herself a blanket. “Var, remember what I said. When I’m gone, go see your daughter. Please.”

“I doubt she wants to see me.”

“Visit her anyway.” Ailsa sighed as she wrapped the blanket around her naked body. She curled up against the dragon so he could feel her warmth, her presence. Her words were a knife in her own heart. “I’m here if you need me.”

“Thank you, Ailsa.”

Ailsa pulled the blue blanket up over her face. She wiped her eyes. “Sleep well, Var.”

 

I hope you enjoyed the tenth episode of The Devil’s Deal by D. Wilder. Stay tuned for the final episode tomorrow. You can catch up on episodes you may have missed and see the full schedule along with contact information for D. Wilder here.

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